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Saturday / May 03 / 2014
Touch of Manny
julius manicad

Business tycoon and sports patron Manny Pangilinan has expressed interest in acquiring a stake in the Los Angeles Clippers. (Philstar file photo)

Like a corporate heavyweight that he is, everything Manny Pangilinan touched had turned into gold.

Pepsi Cola was a perennial cellar-dweller in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) before Pangilinan assumed the franchise in 2001, re-branding it as Talk 'N Text which is now rolling like a well-oiled basketball machine and serves as epitome of discipline and success in professional basketball.

Same goes with Ateneo de Manila University and San Beda College. Prior to Pangilinan's involvement, both schools were in the bottom of their respective collegiate leagues. But now, the Blue Eagles have scored a rare five-peat in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines while the Red Lions nailed seven National Collegiate Athletic Association crowns in the last eight years.

And, of course, Gilas Pilipinas.

Once the most feared team in Asia, the Nationals have lost their swagger under the old Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP) regime. At one point, the BAP-assembled National Team lost to the Paranaque Jets – a laughable team made up of actors and washed-up collegiate players – in a preseason game of the National Basketball Conference in 2005.

But look at them now.

With Pangilinan taking over in 2008, the Nationals recruited the country's brightest young players and hired one of the most brilliant coaches in Europe: Rajko Toroman of Serbia. Then, they were given extensive overseas training, flying to as far as Lithuania, United States, Serbia and the Middle East to sharpen their knives against Asia's basketball supremos.

After six years, the Nationals will be packing their bags again. But this time, it won't be for any foreign training or some tune-up tournaments. It will be for the Fiba World Cup – a dream that wouldn't be realized without Pangilinan digging deep into his pocket to fish millions of pesos to bankroll the squad.

Simply put, Pangilinan is the basketball Messiah of the Filipinos.

He is a miracle worker. He creates something out of nothing.

There's still one missing feather on his cap, however.

He wants to own an NBA franchise.

He wants to be mentioned on the same breath as other mega-billionaires like Russian mining titan Mikhail Prokhorov, Microsoft founder Paul Allen, Away big boss Richard DeVos, cruise ships magnate Micky Arison, Wal-Mart mogul Stankley Kroenke and United States Senator Herb Simon.

And in a meeting with former NBA commissioner David Stern during the NBA Global Games in Manila last year, Pangilinan formally expressed his intention to jump into the glamorous world of the NBA.

"Yes, I told him that I remain interested in an NBA team even in a modest stake. Just to learn,” said Pangilinan, whose expertise in managing the world's biggest cage stars was put into an ultimate test when he brought Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, James Harden and other NBA stars to Manila for a pair of exhibition games in the heat of the NBA lockout in 2011.

His initial target were the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors due to their large Asian community, its sunny weather and its proximity to Manila being in the West Coast.

Unfortunately, his bid got crushed when the Maloof family decided to sell the Kings to Silicon Valley big boss Vivek Ranadive for a record NBA franchise valuation of $535 million while Joe Lacob and his partner Peter Guber of Mandalay Entertainment momentarily prohibited the entry of new investors in the Warriors' ownership group.

“I have to admit, the idea is very titillating,” Pangilinan said.

Little did Pangilinan know that barely a year after the doors of opportunity in Sacramento and Golden State had closed, there's a window in Los Angeles that will be opened.

In a report by Richard Dy of Spin.ph, Pangilinan told that he's interested in acquiring minority stakes in the Los Angeles Clippers, which is expected to be on sale anytime soon after NBA commissioner Adam Silver slapped Donald Sterling with a lifetime ban over racist comments.

Silver needs only three-fourths vote from 29 team owners to formalize Sterling's expulsion.

A lot of prospective buyers – all of them billionaires – have lined up, including television personality Oprah Winfrey, rapper Sean Combs, boxers Oscar Dela Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr., actor Matt Damon and even NBA great Earvin "Magic" Johnson, who was the main recipient of Sterling's racist remarks.

Winfrey is reportedly the frontrunner in this multi-cornered bidding war for America's most valuable sports property as she is reportedly being backed by billionaire entertainment executive David Geffen and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison.

"Oprah Winfrey is in discussions with David Geffen and Larry Ellison to make a bid for the Los Angeles Clippers should the team become available," Clippers' spokesperson Nicole Nichols told NBA.com.

But it doesn't hamper Pangilinan's interest.

He is seriously eyeing an NBA franchise, or even a small portion of it.

“Well, yeah (I'm interested in buying a stake in the Clippers). I mean, it’s a good team, I’m sure there will be many interested buyers in the (United) States,” said Pangilinan, adding that he wants a small slice in the P25.3-billion franchise.

"If anything, kung puwede, babakas na lang kami kasi sigurado mahal iyan (Clippers team) eh. What I heard is $575 million daw, but I’m sure it will be bidded up so babakas kami kahit small amount. At least, para magka-experience."

Yes, Pangilinan is so ready for the NBA.

He had already proven himself – in the PBA, the UAAP, the NCAA and even in the international basketball circuit.

Everything he touched had turned into gold.

And the Clippers could be one of them.

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